Whether it's post-shower at home or after hitting the steam room at an upscale spa, there is nothing more satisfying than wrapping your hair up in a towel to dry. For years, locks of all lengths have sat twisted upon heads in standard cotton towels. But what if I told you there was another option that could dry your hair faster—and potentially yield less damage?
Enter microfiber towels, which have been besting their cotton counterparts in almost every way. Microfiber is both more absorbent and ultra-lightweight—meaning you get more drying power with a smaller microfiber towel than you would with a larger cotton one. But beyond the drying capabilities, what are the benefits of choosing microfiber? We turned to three hair experts—hairstylist Janelle Sands, dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD, and trichologist Kari Williams, Ph.D.—for their thoughts on the benefits of using a microfiber towel.
Meet the Expert
- Janelle Sands is a certified hairstylist, braid and extension specialist, and CURLS brand educator.
- Ava Shamban, MD, is the founder of Ava MD Dermatology, the SkinFive med spa concept, and The Box by Dr. Ava.
- Kari Williams, Ph.D., is a board-certified trichologist, licensed cosmetologist, and DevaCurl Expert Curl Council member.
Keep reading to find out why experts love drying hair with microfiber towels.
Shortens Dry Time
Whether you air dry or blow dry your hair, microfiber towels can help to cut drying time in half. Williams explains that microfiber is 200 times thinner than a hair strand, which she says contributes to its ability to absorb lots of water. Microfiber's super-powered water absorbency allows it to decrease the amount of time you spend drying your hair. Our other experts agree: Sands adds that microfiber towels accelerate wash day by diminishing drying time, while Shamban estimates that microfiber towels can cut drying time by as much as half.
Shortening the drying time can also help prevent further damage to the hair caused by blow drying or air drying. According to Shamban, hair is most vulnerable in its wet elasticity state. She explains that if you opt to use hot tools, doing a preliminary microfiber towel dry provides a buffer to mitigate damage by absorbing the excess water. "Drying with heat is never advised from soaking wet hair—it can cause too much 'evaporation' transepidermal water loss from both scalp and hair," cautions Shamban. "Plus, you can literally boil the strands like strings of spaghetti."
And if you're air drying your hair during the winter, microfiber towels can help prevent the need to go out into the cold with wet hair, something Shamban discourages as it can cause frizz and an unwanted body chill.
One of the reasons Sands loves microfiber towels is that they absorb excess moisture while preserving the hydration your hair needs. This is due to the fact that microfiber towels don't need to sit on hair as long as cotton towels and cause less friction.
All hair types need some level of moisture, but certain textures may benefit from microfiber towels more than others. They're excellent for thick, coarse hair which has a cuticle that allows for more evaporation (or doesn't hold moisture) says Shamban. "Thick, coarse, and frizzy hair may benefit more than fine or thin hair," Shamban explains. Williams adds that those with low porosity hair, thick hair, or people who are looking for quick-drying solutions for their extensions will benefit from the use of microfiber towels as well.
It's important that the towel you use after washing your hair works to support the conditioning you've just completed, not destroy it. Your strands feel almost silky as you reach for a cotton towel to dry your hair, but after? You're sometimes left with frizzy, rough-feeling hair that makes you question if you even used conditioner in the shower. With microfiber towels frizz might not need to be a part of the equation, says Sands, as they produce a frizz-free, smooth hair shaft.
While some frizz is unavoidable and even beneficial to certain hairstyles, Shamban explains that microfiber towels can help keep unwanted frizz at bay and promote overall smoothness due to several factors. She notes that because microfiber is super gentle and high in absorption, it targets two causes of frizz: dryness and friction. Regular towels can over-dry hair, stripping it of necessary moisture and promoting frizz. Additionally, "terry cloth towels are high in friction and low in absorbency, hence the need to rub and rub and rub," explains Shamban. There is no need to rub the hair with microfiber towels, which avoids creating friction that can create frizz as well.
Helps to Prevent Breakage
Hair breakage can be caused by several factors and contributes to hair loss, so it's important to prevent it whenever and wherever possible. Microfiber towels eliminate the friction caused by traditional cotton towels and minimize breakage or further damage, explains Shamban, who adds that microfiber does extremely well with fragile hair strands that are prone to breakage. Williams agrees and explains that the small fibers also reduce the tangling and snagging of hair strands, reducing incidents of breakage.
Sands does caution that the benefits of microfiber towels can be impacted by how you use them. "It is right to apply a microfiber towel, like the CURLS Texture Turban ($16), to your hair and simply twist the turban to secure," she says. "This should be viewed as a simple slip onto the hair and the towel will absorb the moisture without frizzing or drying out the hair. The wrong way to use a microfiber towel is to aggressively shift the fabric back and forth along the hair shaft. This is an unnecessary process, as the towel will do the heavy lifting for you."
Helps to Protect the Scalp Microbiome
Dermatologists are concerned about your skin's microbiome and for good reason. Not unlike the gut, the skin has its own collection of bacteria and viruses that make up its unique culture. While all microbiomes have a combination of "good" and "bad" players, it's important to avoid overpopulating your skin with harmful bacteria that could lead to infection. It's easy to forget that your scalp is an extension of the skin that makes up the rest of your body and has the same needs as the skin anywhere else.
Depending on how often you wash a traditional cotton towel, harmful germs and bacteria can build up. Shamban likes the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of microfiber towels, which she says help to keep the natural scalp environment and microbiome in check.
If you decide to make the switch to microfiber towels, it's important to note that their maintenance is slightly different than it is for traditional towels. Wash them separately—the fiber can attract dirt, hair, and lint from the rest of your laundry—and avoid fabric softeners or bleach. Instead, opt for a gentle, chemical-free, fragrance-free cleaning detergent.
Protects the Integrity of Curl Patterns
According to Shamban, microfiber towels are also great for protecting the integrity and patterns of curly hair. "Curly hair benefits as the curl patterns are not upended with the rubbing or terry cloth toughness," explains Shamban. Sands agrees: "The honest truth is that all hair types benefit from using a microfiber towel as opposed to regular cotton which increases friction between the fabric and the hair shaft. However, textured hair needs to use microfiber more than any other hair texture because of the dry and naturally frizzy nature of textured hair."
Microfiber towels' usefulness for curly hair is twofold—they help dry the hair more quickly and are important styling tools whether you're air drying or diffusing. Shamban notes that microfiber towels are great for scrunching or wrapping to keep patterns in place while drying. Most curly stylists use a microfiber towel to scrunch after applying their products to remove the excess water and help to lock in the style they are trying to achieve. You can then either leave the hair wrapped in the towel while you do your skincare/makeup routine or begin diffusing.
Less of a Pain in the Neck (Literally)
The lightweight nature of microfiber towels offers benefits beyond your hair and scalp. "Cotton towels have more weight and can create mild discomfort when wrapping up wet hair," says Williams. "This is significantly decreased [when you use] microfiber towels."
Shamban adds that microfiber towel turban wraps are perfect for your post-shower skincare routine as they are way less stressful on your neck than traditional cotton towels. "Have you ever tried to wrap a bath towel around your head? It's so heavy even without water, and when dense, [it's] a literal pain in the neck and posture killer," she says. The lighter weight is an even greater benefit for people with longer hair, locs, or extensions as their hair is already heavy, adds Sands.
Their light weight also makes microfiber towels ideal for travel. Smaller microfiber towels are more effective at drying than larger cotton towels, which means you'll lose less space inside your luggage.